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HomeExpertsUnraveling the Layers: The Moscow Terror Attack and Its Geopolitical Repercussions

Unraveling the Layers: The Moscow Terror Attack and Its Geopolitical Repercussions

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its third year, the Russians, who were confident that they could take Kiev quickly, suffered significant losses and displayed a scattered appearance at the beginning, but have regrouped in the last year. Russian forces have begun to advance. Ukrainian forces are unable to receive enough weapons, ammunition, and money from Western countries that promised support. Moreover, as the duration extends, they struggle to find soldiers to fight at the front. In terms of population, technology, and resources, they are at a disadvantage compared to Russia.

On the other hand, Russia is receiving serious support from the authoritarian block. The sanctions imposed by the West have almost lost their effect. Putin manages to sell his gas and oil and meets his needs from non-Western countries. Authoritarian countries like China, North Korea, and Iran saw Putin’s loss as their own and provided full support to Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian army seems to have overcome the weaknesses and disorganization identified in the early stages of the war, appearing morally ahead. Russia is also using legionnaire soldiers against Ukraine. Thus, there is less pressure from the domestic public due to lost soldiers than expected.

Elections took place in Russia last week, and as expected, Putin won the controlled election with an overwhelming majority. Now, Putin has a long time for new targets and projects. We do not know whether the claims of countries like France and England that Putin wants to continue expanding his invasion are based on data or are part of the strategy they follow. However, former Eastern Bloc countries and countries that separated from the USSR, whether allied with the West or preferring to remain neutral, are very tense, even anxious. Especially countries that have integrated with the West, democratized, and achieved prosperity fear that Russia might invade and take control of their countries again.

Two different approaches emerge regarding Putin’s expansionist policies. Sections that are against Russia and the West argue that this is not true, suggesting that the rumors and the atmosphere of fear aim to expand NATO and increase the influence of the USA. This is hoped to maintain the dependency and subjugation of neutral countries and former Warsaw Pact countries to the West.

The second and more widely accepted view suggests that Putin, possessing absolute power and authority, is acting like a Tsar. “He will not be satisfied with his gains in Georgia, Crimea, and will not stop at Ukraine,” it is said. When we look at his historical policies and implementations, the statements that ‘Russia follows a peaceful strategy with no interest in other countries’ do not seem convincing. Nor do they alleviate the concerns of countries fearful of Russia. Moreover, Putin has openly threatened countries like Sweden and Finland.

Another thesis is that Putin, worn out and questioned within Russia, is trying to solidify his position through aggressive and expansionist policies. Russians, like Turks, prefer their state to be strong even if they suffer personally. Wars and crises bring the society together around a leader and reduce questioning and opposition.

While the world is occupied with these discussions, a shocking terrorist attack occurred in Russia’s capital, Moscow, killing more than 140 civilians and injuring hundreds. The attack was claimed by ISIS, but Putin suggests that the attack came from Ukraine, attempting to shift the world’s attention to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials stated that they were not involved in such an attack. It seems that this terrorist act will have a direct impact on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Putin could expand or shift the war to new areas by connecting it to the explosion.

Everyone seems to be using ISIS! We condemn such an attack targeting civilians at a public concert hall, regardless of who it comes from. However, attacks of this nature have different objectives than what is seen or said. The purpose of such actions is not to harm the public but to send a message. Sometimes the message is aimed at demoralizing the attacked country, warning its officials. Sometimes it aims to tighten the ranks among the people of that country, persuade the public to certain policies, or silence the opposition. The rising nationalist, security-oriented rhetoric serves the consolidation of questioned powers and leaders.

Events exclusively claimed by ISIS are more complex and require looking for an effective service behind them. ISIS, being operationally convenient for services without a social base, has been used by many. The US and its allies, who previously regarded Afghan-origin armed groups as ‘mujahideen, heroes’ for fighting against the USSR, declared them ‘terrorists’ after September 11. They created a victimhood from these groups by attributing a series of explosions that could be planned by major services, thus creating reasons for their invasions.

From Iraq to Syria to Libya, they invaded several countries, changed governments, and played with geographies. While doing all these, they used the fear of ISIS, considered amorphous and dubious by many experts. The ISIS card, invented and spread by the West, was later used by many states/services to justify their illegal actions under the guise of “fighting ISIS.” Now, this card is utilized by services both large and small. Therefore, the claim that the Moscow attack was carried out by ISIS does not clarify the situation but rather increases the ambiguity.

New Fronts Could Open
During the bloody and unlawful operations in Gaza, Russia showed an anti-Israel stance, earning the admiration of primarily Muslim populations sensitive to the genocide happening in Palestine. The Russian public’s stance was in favor of the Palestinians and against Israel. The fact that an organization like ISIS, which is attributed to Muslims, claimed responsibility for a bloody massacre in Moscow might be sending a message regarding the position of the Russian administration. It may also aim to prevent the development of sympathy towards Muslims among the Russian populace.

The massacre in Moscow might be the work of a foreign service aiming to intimidate the Russian public and administration. Furthermore, this explosion could be intended to encourage Russia to advance its war in Ukraine towards Europe, promoting expansionist policies. Thus, it might aim to persuade and prepare the Western club for a major war. However, the world has often witnessed authoritarian leaders planning and executing such events. Authoritarian leaders facing scrutiny, economic, and political deadlocks have turned to such schemes to gain legitimacy on the world stage and consolidate their position among their people. Instances like Hitler’s Reichstag fire, the July 15 coup attempt, and the Izmir assassination plot show that such events can be a “gift from God” for authoritarian leaders, providing justification for harsher measures and new plans.

Putin’s insistence on blaming Ukraine suggests he might try new tactics on the Ukrainian front. Likely, Putin will become more reckless and aggressive. This incident could provide Putin with public support for opening new fronts, supplying soldiers, and suppressing opposition.

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Mahmut Akpinar
Mahmut Akpinar
Dr. Mahmut Akpinar is a political scientist focusing on international relations and Turkish politics.
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